Solving for Quiet Quitting

Written by Jim Hurlburt

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock the last two weeks, you’ve heard, non-stop, the latest workplace buzz term “Quiet Quitting.” Originating from a Gen Z Tik Tok video that went viral with nearly 8 million views in 48 hours, the newly coined term has hit a nerve on both sides of the workplace aisle, employee and employer alike. Turns out the Quiet Quitting message is actually really loud and reverberating.

Whether from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or National Law Review, the consensus is that Quiet Quitting is a clarion call to say “no” to additional work without additional pay, in essence rejecting the decades-old hustle culture which demands you say “yes” to everything, consistently overperform, and exceed expectations if you want to be promoted, etc.

Advocates are saying “quiet quitting” is a healthy way to establish necessary boundaries that honor true work-life balance and protect against burnout. On the other hand, detractors warn that it presents as an actual form of quitting – albeit in a passive-aggressive form – and that it’s probably more likely to sabotage one’s career.

As is often the case, elements of truth are likely on both sides. 

Quiet Quitting Is About Massive Job Dissatisfaction

While there’s no shortage of “takes” on what Quiet Quitting precisely is or isn’t, Time’s August 2022 report correlates Quiet Quitting to a more general term, job dissatisfaction. Citing Gallup’s State of The Global Workplace: 2022 Report, we learn that job dissatisfaction arises from workers who are either not fully engaged and/or actively disengaged. Sadly, and stunningly, the reports reveal only 33% of U.S. workers are engaged. To be clear, 67% of the U.S. are either not engaged – defined as “just putting in their time” – or worse, they are actively disengaged – defined as “miserable”. 

With 2 out of every 3 workers not engaged in their jobs, is there any wonder that Quiet Quitting is reverberating across the country? 

The issue isn’t just that millions of workers aren’t engaged. As explained in the reports, job dissatisfaction cost the global economy $7.8 trillion in lost productivity. Whether we look at the human toll on countless millions or the massive loss in productivity, both employees and employers have cause for concern.

But Job Dissatisfaction Is A Symptom, Not The Cause

Which leads us to the central issue: what causes lack of engagement or rampant disengagement? More importantly, do you know what is causing it on your team? And, do you have a clear strategy to address it meaningfully? 

Before discussing practical solutions, leaders must first understand the well-recognized management maxim that is in play: “Your system is perfectly designed to yield the results you’re getting.” Whatever else you believe is driving Quiet Quitting – and the Great Resignation preceding it – one thing is sure: leaders have, in essence, created the “system”, be it at the team, department or organizational level. Leaders must own it like never before.

Before becoming depressed, there’s a silver lining to this maxim: systems don’t have to remain static – we know they can be modified and redesigned!

Grow Your Awareness – Develop A Strategy To Curb The Trend 

First, while addressing engagement issues has been historically viewed as an HR initiative, it’s now a leader’s job to understand who is quietly quitting on their team and why. One primary reason for leaders to embrace this responsibility is that employees don’t really quit employers; they more often quit their bosses and their leaders. Quitting then is personal in nature, relational, and communal. And if the wound inflicted is personal in nature, then the cure will be relational too. It will be about renewing human connections.

The first step to becoming a better leader begins with growing your awareness of your team’s well-being and engagement. For example, according to Gallup research, over 50% of those born after 1989 are not engaged. They show up to work and “just put in their time,” which is the essence of Quiet Quitting. Additionally, the research explains employees who are 18-34 are more likely to feel burned out than the rest of the workforce. 

Together, this data reinforces what we’ve consistently seen in our consulting practice: organizational success and employee wellness are – and always have been – inextricably linked. Our experience tells us that a renewed focus on what drives human beings, especially their innate need for purpose in their daily work, is consistently the catalyst to reigniting productivity at both the individual and organizational levels.

Purpose fuels productivity. 

Supporting this principle, a 2019 HBR article on purpose explains how leaders can help employees find meaning and purpose in their work, enhancing their motivation and productivity – a win, win. 

At this point in 2022, we’ve seen a growing misalignment of purpose between individual employees and organizations, likely due to deep reflection on meaning and purpose at the individual level and catalyzed by the pandemic. This ever-increasing divide likely explains the timing and intensity of Quiet Quitting. In short, we are in a crisis of purpose. Our experience is, however, that leaders who facilitate conversations with their team around purpose are rewarded in many ways, including gains in productivity and retention.

Counter-intuitive for some, but consistently true.  

2. Having identified who on your team is disengaged, you need to develop a strategy to understand why and a plan to re-engage. Some simple questions you should ask:

  • What currently retains your best talent? What threatens it?
  • How are you creating loyalty? How are you helping others find purpose? 
  • How do you protect your talent against burnout? 

In short, you need clear answers to these questions in order to effectively tackle this unprecedented talent-drain problem. 

We are at a tipping point. We are here to help you.  Contact us today to address how Quiet Quitting impacts your team. We have offerings specifically designed to facilitate your learnings in talent retention, burnout, and the integration of purpose and productivity, among others. Our offerings range from small workshops to large organizational programs and can be customized to meet your needs. We believe your learnings will convert to better and more sustainable business results.

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